The United Nations Environmental Protection Agency and other conservation groups say elephants are now facing their worst crisis in years. In the race to satisfy the demand in Asia for ivory objects and carvings, elephant poachers have found easy hunting grounds in Mozambique. Bob Doughty has more.
Five years ago, 15,000 elephants lived in the large Niassa Reserve in the northernmost part of the country. But those numbers are decreasing quickly.
The Rovuma River forms a natural border between the park and Tanzania. All the poachers need to do is cross the water by boat to reach the elephants. Then they attack the animals with high-powered weapons.
The Wildlife Conservation Society recently joined the government of Mozambique in an effort to manage the reserve. Carlos Lopes-Pareira is the organization’s technical advisor. He says poachers can shoot as many as five elephants at a time.
“They go after the matriarch. They create a temporary state of confusion. While the other elephants are looking for guidance, which is given by the matriarch, they are shot.”
Officials say poachers kill an average of three elephants a day. That is more than one thousand a year. Mister Lopes-Pareira predicts a sad future for elephants.
“The destruction is such that in probably eight years we will have very few elephants, or what we could call a not-viable population of elephants.” Wildlife officials, called rangers, try to stop the poachers, but it is difficult. There are only 40 rangers to guard the park, which is the size of the country of Norway. More....